One of the hard and fast rules of pitching reporters is that it seems there are no hard and fast rules of pitching a reporter. A reporter may complain about getting phone calls one one hand and then write a paean to being virtually stalked EXACTLY a month later.

So it’s no surprise that pitching the media is excruciatingly frustrating for anyone who does it, whether they are founders, agencies or consultants.

In our short month since launch, we’ve talked with over 250 entrepreneurs about press outreach and we’ve shared with with them our simple approach. We’ve also told them we DO have some hard and fast rules about press outreach that go beyond PR tips and that we will release them as customers if they violate them.

Rule #1: No Phone Calls

Reporters have hard jobs. They have to be creative and be on a deadline. Very few of us deal with this on a daily basis. They also have to deal with editors and manage sources. As a result, they probably pay more attention to their phones more than most of us at work. So don’t call them. Of course, they can call you or ask you to call them, but please never call a reporter unsolicited, even if you have an existing relationship.

Rule #2: Don’t @Reply, DM or PM or INMail

This is simple and straightforward. Don’t friend a reporter on Facebook with the intention of sending them a PM. Same for LinkedIn. You’re not being clever when you Snap or calendar invite as a pitch, you’re just being a pain in the ass. We encourage our customers to follow reporters on their beat on Twitter and @ reply when there’s a topic of interest or to answer a question. But don’t ever @reply to get their attention. Reporters get 300 emails a day, wouldn’t it ruin Twitter for them if they got 300 @reply pleas to read a pitch. Just don’t do it.

Rule #3: Give Email Time

Email is the best way to get ahold of a reporter (with certain exceptions). It works, but it doesn’t work immediately. Always leave enough time before your announcement to email the reporter and have one follow-up. One follow-up should suffice. We may be less aggressive in our approach than others, but we aim to be as respectful as possible and live up to our name and be “press friendly.” Remember, as a founder you want to build relationships with reporters so that they’ll cover you as your company grows. A little respect can go a long way.

The first email should be the pitch, usually 7-14 days before you’d like the coverage to hit. If you don’t get a response, send a second email 3 days out as a reminder along with a note that you’d like a response within 24 hours or you’ll take your news somewhere else. In many cases the reporter will respond one way or another to this email. Any more emails and you are essentially wasting your time and theirs and are a spammer.

Rule #4: No mass emails

PressFriendly does not let its customers spray and pray. We purposely create smaller email lists than other lists providers. Our average list is about 30-40 publications with multiple reporters at some publications. The reason that so many people send mass emails is that they don’t know who’s interested in the story. Probably the best thing about PressFriendly is that we use machine learning to match the pitch to the right reporter using their reporter archives. So we’re providing media lists that don’t waste the time of founders and reporters.

By promoting a few simple rules for press outreach, we hope to make life a little simpler and saner for reporters. We hope that in kind, they respect our approach and look kindly upon founders who respect their time and email them with tailored pitches.

About The Author

Joel is the CEO of PressFriendly. He is an enthusiast of startups, his three sons, Scotch and Philadelphia sports teams.

5 Responses

  1. Amy Alkon

    “PressFriendly does not let its customers spray and pray. We purposely create smaller email lists than other lists providers. Our average list is about 30-40 publications with multiple reporters at some publications.”

    This is what’s called professional public relations. It’s truly appreciated. There are a handful of publicity people who pitch me things I can use, which are behavioral science-based books. The rest of the publicity I get is basically spam about things I will never write about: celebrities, restaurants, astrologers, etc.

  2. Bruce Coulter

    This article hits a home run. I can’t count the number of times I get a pitch followed by multiple calls. Ugh!

  3. Vicky Sidler

    Great article! Left off this list: Don’t email me pretending to be a reader who just happened to see something cool that you think I’d like. I can tell it’s PR.


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